McDonald’s Worker Sues Over Gun-Wielding Sexual Harasser

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By Patrick Dorrian

A McDonald’s franchise in Michigan reacted to a gun-wielding male worker’s sexual harassment of a female co-worker by reducing her hours but not his, the woman charges in a federal lawsuit ( Dodaro v. JNKO Mgmt., Inc. , W.D. Mich., No. 1:17:cv-00348, complaint filed 4/17/17 ).

JNKO Management Inc., the owner of the McDonald’s restaurant in New Buffalo Township, Mich., also allowed her harasser, James Seitz, to take temporary medical leave following the incident, Dawn Dodaro alleges. The unequal treatment based on sex decreased her income and was also in retaliation for her complaints about Seitz, she says.

Despite her hours being reduced, allegedly in order to keep her and Seitz apart, Seitz was soon back at work harassing her, the complaint filed April 17 in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Michigan asserts. Seitz continued his harassment by having other workers bring Dodaro gifts and messages. Management was aware that the harassment persisted, according to the lawsuit.

The complaint, which was filed under Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act and Michigan state law, asserts claims for sex discrimination, sexual harassment and retaliation.

The prevention of sexual and other workplace harassment is an enforcement priority of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which enforces Title VII. The agency Jan. 10 released for public comment a draft of revised enforcement guidance on the issue.

A June 2016 report by a 16-member EEOC select task force on the study of workplace harassment found that workplaces that rely on customer service or client satisfaction, those marked by limited communication between organizational levels, and those that tolerate or encourage alcohol consumption by employees are most at risk for creating an atmosphere in which sexual harassment can flourish. Restaurants are exposed to all three risk factors, the EEOC found.

Retaliation remained the most frequently alleged type of discrimination in the charges filed with the EEOC during the agency’s fiscal year 2016.

Fled, Pursued to Nearby Gas Station

The harassment started in November 2015 when Seitz pledged his love for Dodaro and brandished a firearm when she responded that she was already in a relationship and wasn’t interested, according to the lawsuit. Dodaro fled the scene, running to a nearby gas station. But Seitz pursued her there and grabbed her shoulder in a threatening way. He only left Dodaro alone when she said she would call the police, the complaint alleges.

JNKO further retaliated against Dodaro by charging her with work infractions for leaving early or taking time off when she wasn’t feeling well, including when it was caused by her hostile work environment, the complaint says. That was so even though she had received permission to leave early on some of those occasions, she provided proper notice of her absences and other workers weren’t similarly written-up, according to the complaint.

The series of adverse employment actions by the restaurant owner began shortly after Dodaro gave notice of her intent to participate in a formal EEOC investigation of the alleged harassment, Dodaro says.

Neither JNKO nor McDonald’s Corp. responded April 17 to Bloomberg BNA’s request for comment.

Chapman Law Group represents Dodaro. No attorney had filed an appearance yet for JNKO.

To contact the reporter on this story: Patrick Dorrian in Washington at pdorrian@bna.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Peggy Aulino at maulino@bna.com; Terence Hyland at thyland@bna.com; Christopher Opfer at copfer@bna.com

Copyright © 2017 The Bureau of National Affairs, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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